Charles Rogers, I am trying to spread the message any way I can because I know how you suffered. And I need to in order to move forward to cope with losing you.
So I am at Godwin High School with the student-lead group, “No Eagle Left Behind.” This group is focused on awareness surrounding mental illness, bullying, suicide and addiction. Things have changed so much since your suicide. People are starting to talk. I’ve been at it so long, fought so hard and it’s so bittersweet that it’s after your death.
Anyway, I talked about you, Charles. And people listened like they always did when you spoke or joked. You had so much to say and such a way of saying it. I wonder if you saw it.
The speaker that was there was raw and real.
But I wonder if you were behind what happened next.
You know Charles Shelton who has the same name as you and reminds me of you in so many ways?
I’m sitting at this assembly on stage beside Haley and Charles Shelton near the end and Charles S. leans over and says, “I want to talk. Should I interrupt Mrs. Dunavant?” (She’s the principal.) Haley looked surprised. I was surprised. Then I looked Charles S. dead in the eye and I said, “Yes. You go for it. Go say what you have to say.”
Charles politely asks the principal for the microphone and she hands it to him. Because I trusted him and so did she. I look at Haley and Mrs. Dunavant. We have no idea what he’ll say.
And then Charles S. tells the whole student body he suffers from depression and how it feels every day. How he wears a smile sometimes when he doesn’t feel like it. Like you said in your music, “I wear the face of a clown.” Remember when you used those words? I know you do. You were so adored but it wasn’t enough to fix what you were suffering from.
Like you, Charles is a well liked kid. It’s because he reaches out to people and brings them all together. Like you did. You were always spearheading efforts for pep rallies and floats, games and bonfires. You connected people and with people and they loved it. They loved you. You connected with people at the heart. You listened. You were the real deal, Charles Rogers. And he is so much like that.
The student body was silent when he spoke. Listening.
When he finished up and sat down, Charles S. said, “That felt great!” I smiled. Had to wipe away my tears. It was so beautiful and I am so glad I got to see it. His fellow students came up and hugged him after.
It was a totally impromptu speech which is what made it so special. I was too stunned to grab my camera. This was a remarkable day at Godwin High School.
I felt your spirit with me. Thank you for that.